Meet a Migration Scientist!

Big Idea:
Scientists use tools to gather and interpret data and create meaningful information.

Learning Objectives:
1. Students will be able to identify and describe the components of a scientific investigation.
2. Students will be able to analyze a "Meet the Scientist" report to identify the purpose of the scientist's investigation, the questions asked, and methods used for collecting data.
3. Students will understand the importance of asking questions and will learn about types of resources/methods they can use to answer their questions.

Time Needed:
Two 45 minute period plus additional time for extensions

  • Paper and pencils, colored pencils, markers, or crayons (for "Draw a Scientist")
  • "Draw A Scientist" (Journal Page 3)
  • "Meet a Scientist" (Journal Page 4)
  • "Me, the Scientist" (Journal Page 5)
  • My "I wonder Questions" (Journal Page 6)
  • 'Meet the Scientist' Report (Resource Page 18)
  • Computer/projector to display video of Nate Senner's work

Getting Ready:
Copy the 'Meet the Scientist' Report and the 'Kinds of Questions' article if you are giving them out to students.Familiarize yourself with the video and blog posts about Nate's work, and decide how you will let students view these resources. Prepare your projector or computers for displaying the video clips (optional). You will need this password to access the video: CBoundaries 2010

Conducting the Activity
1. Draw a Scientist
Ask the students what they think scientists are and what they do. Give them about five minutes to draw and describe a scientist at work on Journal Page X. Ask students to share their drawings. You may want to tape them up at the front of the class grouped by similarity (for example, Do most scientists wear a white lab coat? Do most drawings contain chemicals? Instruments? How many scientists are male? Female? Are any of the scientists outdoors? How do scientists do science?), and discuss these ideas.

2. Meet the Scientist
Write these questions on the board, or refer to Journal Page 6.
  • What questions did Nate Senner and his team ask?
  • Why was he interested in those questions?
  • What kind of information and data did they collect? What kind of tools did they use or how did they collect this information?
  • What has Nate learned as a result of his investigation?

Show the video "In the Field"(16 minutes, Note: password to access the video: CBoundaries 2010) and "The Tools I Use" (4 minutes) about Nate Senner's work .
If that is not possible, give the students 5 minutes to read the "Meet the Scientist" summary report on Nate Senner.

Then, discuss the answers to the questions. Finally, compare and contrast Nate's work with the work of the scientists they drew.

Depending on time, you may also ask the students to discuss the following questions within small groups or as a class:
  • What are the challenges that Nate and his team might face?
  • If you met Nate Senner and his team, what questions would you ask them about their work?

3.Nature of Science:
Emphasize the following aspects of "the nature of science" on the board.
  • Scientists collect data and information. They look for evidence that will help them draw conclusions.
  • Scientific ideas change and grow. One observation or experiment often leads to new questions. There is always something new to learn!
  • Scientists are creative in the questions they ask and the methods they use to answer them.
  • Scientists work together, getting ideas from each other as well as from their own experience and research.

Encourage the students to discuss these aspects by sharing examples from the scientific investigations they have read about, seen on TV, done themselves or know about because they know a scientist personally. You may also discuss how these aspects of science relate to Nate Senner's investigation (Resource page 18).

Would you like to be a scientist like Nate or the other people you mentioned? Why or why not? What might be fun about his job? What might be difficult?

Activity #1
Continue to keep track of "I Wonder" questions (see Journal Page 6), and consider using the Investigating Evidence resource to address them (See Journal Page 5).
Ask students to go back to their small groups and assign one group scribe. Ask the students to spend three minutes brainstorming questions with the following prompt:

What questions do you have about migratory birds (or birds in general)?

Emphasize that the group should write down whatever questions come to their minds and write as many questions as possible within the allotted time. After three minutes, ask the students to pick one question they would want to answer the most. Write this question on Journal Page 5. Then, brainstorm ways to
answer this question for 3 minutes, recording ideas in the Journal.

Ask the students:
  • What different ways (resources/methods) did you come up with to answer your questions?
  • Why do different questions require different ways of finding out answers?
Continue this lesson by covering Investigation 1 of investigating evidence.

As part of class, or for homework, consider having the students read the article "Kinds of Questions" from the Investigating Evidence resource guide. Tell the students that questions can be classified into four categories based on the ways in which they are answered. Introduce the four categories:
  • Questions answered by Reference Materials: These are questions for which you "look up" answers or ask answers from experts. Often, you have to read and put together information from several reliable sources before reaching a conclusion about your question. The references you are looking at are based on the findings of scientists (or experts in any field) who did research before.
    • Experts themselves can be references. By talking to a scientist, you can learn about his/her research and about other good resources for finding answers to your question. This is one way to find out about very current information.
  • Questions answered by Data Exploration: You'll look at other people's data to answer these questions.
  • Questions answered by Observational Study: If you want to answer these kinds of questions, you'll need to collect data as you observe the natural world.
  • Questions answered by Experimental Study: If you want to answer these kinds of questions, you'll generate the data yourself by conducting an experiment.

Have the students write down answers to these questions/activities in class or for homework:
  • Put some of the questions you generated in class in each of these categories (Reference Materials, Data Exploration, Descriptive Study and Experimental Study). Write extra questions for the categories that don't have any questions.
  • Is it important to ask different types of questions? Why or why not?
  • What kinds of questions do you ask most of the time?
  • Think back to Nate Senner's work. What types of questions did he ask? Are there types of questions that are most useful to scientists? If so, what? (Scientists use a combination of all these types of questions to carry out their research.)